Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mentoring to Build a Stronger Community

I've had the opportunity to work with various non-profits, schools, and youth programs during my career. I've been a part of many fine organizations working tirelessly to support and develop youth. While their missions, strategies, and outcomes have varied, I've observed a consistent theme in youth work. It seems that almost exclusively, there is a parallel between troubled youth and fatherless homes. Daily, an all-to-familiar story of pain and loss plays out in the lives of children where Dad is missing in action.

At the Y, we began discussing the idea of developing a new mentoring program. While the brainstorming created a lot of excitement, we quickly recognized that the best way to address this need isn't through an isolated effort, but through a collaborative approach from our community. In turn, we invited local churches, non-profits, schools, and social service providers to join in a book discussion about the fatherless generation while identifying this need locally and the best way to address the issue.

In our country, youth from fatherless homes account for: 63 percent of youth suicides, 71 percent of pregnant teenagers, 90 percent of all homeless and runaway children, 70 percent of juveniles in state operated institutions, 85 percent of all youths sitting in prison, 85 percent of all youth who exhibit behavior disorders, 80 percent of rapists motivated with displaced anger, 71 percent of high school dropouts, and 75 percent of all adolescents in chemical abuse centers (“The Future: Set Adrift on a Sea of Fatherless Children,” Idaho Observer, July 2003. As quoted in: Sowers, John. "Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story.” (Zondervan, 2010). Read those again. And again. The downside is that these statistics are extraoridnarily sad. The upside is that we can do something to siginficantly improve these numbers - today.

This Fall, the Y will begin The Mentoring Project initiative ( This initiative will seek to respond to the crisis of fatherlessness by inspiring and equipping faith communities to mentor fatherless youth. Through dynamic trainings, mentor recruitment, and the creation of sustainable mentoring communities, TMP is rewriting the story of a generation. We can’t bring back all the fathers, but we can provide mentors to step in their place.

The Y isn't going at this alone. The Mentoring Project will begin with a collaborative team that includes Big Brothers Big Sisters, area churches, and local educational institutions with funding support from the Kiwanis Club of Carlisle and Keystone Financial Associates. These agencies have come together to address the growing issue of fatherlessness in our community with the Y serving as the hub.

Donald Miller, founder of the Mentoring Project says, “[The story of the fatherless generation] does not have to be cyclical. It can end with fewer men in prison, less families abandoned, and the fatherless being cared for by positive role models who believe… that we can choose to live a better story.”

How can you be involved?

- Refer a youth, typically a boy between the ages of 7-14 without a father in the home, to be mentored.
- Learn more about what a TMP mentor looks like and if you might be a fit to potentially changes a child’s life through mentoring. The first mentor training will be held on October 8, 2011 at 8:00 a.m. at the Y.
- Get your church involved. Each faith community will have a church liaison that will seek mentors in their church and support mentors in matches.

For more information about The Mentoring Project, contact Steve Kuhn, Youth Outreach Director, at 243-2525 or